Bellator Fighting Championships will hold a special media conference call today (Aug. 5, 2013) in advance of the promotion's inaugural pay-per-view (PPV), which is expected to take place this fall (Nov. 2).
Jackson is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, having united the Pride and UFC titles back in 2007 before dropping the belt to Forrest Griffin. He's one of the few fighters to sell over one million PPV buys for a non-title fight due to his feud with Rashad Evans, although he finished his UFC career on a sour note with three straight losses before signing with Bellator/TNA/Spike TV earlier this year.
Ortiz was the longest reigning UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, routinely being one of the promotion's top PPV stars back in the day. He retired from competition following his trilogy fight against Forrest Griffin last year and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. He came out of retirement last week to challenge Jackson for Bellator's inaugural PPV headliner
Brian Hemminger here. The conference call is scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. ET.
3:05 p.m. - Getting the classic "still waiting for additional participants" line.
3:08 p.m. - We're getting started!
Bjorn Rebney: I'm an MMA fan. Today I get to be a fan. I get to make a fight I've always wanted to see. This isn't going to happen here often. This isn't a huge new trend of Bellator, but it's gonna be awesome to see a fight between these two MMA icons.... These guys are legends in the game. Could these guys recreate for possibly a single night that epic nature, that majesty that's bigger and better in mixed martial arts? I think they will.
Tito Ortiz: I'm really excited to be a part of Bellator and this event in general. I got an offer I couldn't refuse. I tried to do everything under the sun to get this sport where it is today and everything I had was because of this sport. I've been though every surgery under the sun and I've prevailed. I no longer have a relationship that drags me down. I'm in a good place mentally, physically and emotionally. I had a hunger of wanting to be great again. To be great again, you need to fight the best in the world. This fight will be one of the biggest fights of 2013. Bellator was the one to make this fight happen. My future is solidified and I'm happy about it. the company I used to work for, I had to beg for tickets. I feel good. I just turned 38 years old and I've gone through things other people don't usually come back from. I'm strong, healthy and I want to fight. My mind is in a better place to compete. People saw what I did to Ryan Bader. All I did was train, be with my kids, and I was there. When my back is against the wall, and I'm not expected to do anything special, I do something special. On November 2nd, I'll do something even greater.
Rampage Jackson: I was really looking forward to fighting Roy Jones, but Tito signed with them. Bellator made my dreams come true about becoming a pro wrestler, and I don't mind fighting Tito. I wanted my first fight with Bellator to be an MMA fight anyways. I had a bunch of skills I forgot about once I started knocking people out. It's good to be back in MMA and show the fans I'm serious about this comeback. It's hard to fight the top of the line with the injuries I've had. A lot of fans don't know what fighters go through. All they see is us getting in the cage. They don't see us training every day and the injuries. Me and Tito have been taking a lot of hits from MMA fans, never-will-bes calling us has-beens. One thing they don't know about me and Tito is we have heart. I've trained with Tito for years. We've had competition and him and Rico Rodriguez used to kick my ass. I got better and me and Tito went at it harder. There were times we wanted to go at it before in training. We had some battles people will never see and now it'll come out in the cage in front of everybody. I trust that Tito wants to put on a good show for the fans because we're both showmen. I'm an entertainer. MMA has been getting really boring lately. It's been really boring for a while and I want to liven it up. Now that Tito and I both understand the mental game, the energy is good over here and it was bad over there. I feel so positive about this fight and everything else. If you guys don't believe me that I'm back, watch November 2nd. I'll show y'all that night and you can follow me the rest of my career and say "Rampage wasn't lying"
Bjorn Rebney: Promotion will be big. There's a large scale commitment Viacom has made for Bellator. The opportunity to take our first step into pay-per-view will be met with a lot of support. You'll see the Spike stuff all the time, programming telling the story behind it. You'll see cross-platform, MTV, MTV 2, VH1, BET, Comedy Central you'll see that vehicle running full throttle in terms of promotion behind this fight. People forget how much is under the umbrella. The CBS relationship is more distanced. In the upcoming six weeks we'll be announcing the other fights for this show. It'll be epic.
Tito Ortiz: When my handcuffs came off me on July 7th, things started clicking. I've been thinking about it for a long time, ever since my last surgeries when my body was healing so fast. I realized all the negativity was gone. You can achieve a lot of things. I've got a big head and a big brain and when you've got a lot of positivity around you, you can accomplish a lot of things. We're gonna put on a show. We're gonna do it the right way. We're friends still no matter what. I give respect to Rampage.
Rampage Jackson: We do stand to make a lot of money here, but it's not what it's all about. I'm excited to be involved with a positive company. We're still friends, but that night we won't be friends.
Rampage Jackson: I knew fighters were gonna come over when they found out how cool Bellator is, but
Tito Ortiz: Bellator isn't about the brand, Bellator is about the stars. Bellator supports the guys that put it on the line. For once, business understands that. I've always dreamed of that. To spread the word of mixed martial arts. It's not UFC, it's mixed martial arts. Us fighters put it all on the line. We're putting our lives on the line to make it happen and we should be getting the recognition for making happen.
Bjorn Rebney: There will be and are other pieces of Tito's deal. We're about using the brand to help the fighters. The fighters are gonna bring this brand along. it's the superstars that grow the league, not the league that brings the superstars along. There are other pieces to Tito's puzzle that you'll see unfold, theatrical things from our time together eight years ago. Randy works with us for Fight Master and I can see both of these guys making this transition.
Bjorn Rebney: Price points will vary depending on the distributor based on their location around the country. Some places it'll be $35, others it will be $40. There are different markets that are hotbeds for mixed martial arts. We've left that in the hands of the distributors. The $35-45 is the price point we're talking about.
Tito Ortiz: I'm used to fighting on pay-per-views that get one million buys. I know what the fans want to see. My last fight left a bad taste in my mouth. If drop a guy twice, take them down four times, you smash them in the face and they run out of the cage crying, I don't understand how you lose the fight. It's great to have a boss that has your back. Bellator's on the map and going up the way it's gonna go.
Tito Ortiz: I have an interest in Fight Master, of course I do.
Tito Ortiz: We had some of the best ratings in Ultimate Fighter history. They always treated us right at Spike. I've always been a big fan of wrestling. Professional wrestling was what got me into fighting, into collegiate wrestling an din high school. Hulk Hogan was a guy I looked up to. All of a sudden, side to side with Hulk Hogan? I'm gonna run at it like no other.
Tito Ortiz: I was smart enough to save my money. I invest and the biggest thing to invest in is land. I have a lot of it. Right now it's about history, it's about making a brand. It's about being with a company that cares about me, rather than answering to one man. Bellator is giving the opportunity to fighters. We should be respected as fighters. We're the modern day gladiators man. You win the crowd, you win your freedom.
Rampage Jackson: I think Tito fucked up the Roy Jones Jr. fight. The whole time I was getting ready to prepare for Jones. I was gonna get down to 200 pounds but Tito signed and I thought, "Damn, there goes my Roy Jones fight!" If everything goes according to plan, I think that fight will still happen because Jones is still interested in fighting me. I heard Kimbo was doing well, I figured, "Hell, I'll fight him."
Tito Ortiz: I didn't mean to. I want to fight the best. If I come here and fight someone no one knows, all of a sudden people will say I'm getting gimme fights. I've always fought top guys and I always came out and put on a show. It's about putting the friendship aside and doing what we have to do. Our job is to fight. Business is business and on November 2nd, it's gonna be business. I'm putting my poker face on and Rampage better shuffle the right cards.
Rampage Jackson: I wouldn't mind doing a tag team with Tito down the line.
Tito Ortiz: (responding) Wouldn't be the first time that's for sure.
Rampage Jackson: The guys have been really cool with me in the locker room. They've been giving me advice and showing me tricks and this or that.
Tito Ortiz: All the guys have been very respectful towards me.
Bjorn Rebney: There's been a huge amount of talk about this. If there was a Mount Rushmore of mixed martial arts, these two would be carved in stone.
Rampage Jackson: There'd be a lot of stones for Tito's head.
Bjorn Rebney: If everything works out the way I'm hoping, you'll get to see Chandler on that pay-per-view. You put him on a card with Rampage and Tito, suddenly people look at him in a very different light. It's all part of a bigger machine and a bigger puzzle.
Bjorn Rebney: Ben Askren's a puzzle. I've never tried to make excuses for what Ben does. The essence of mixed martial arts is if you don't like what someone's doing to you, train to stop it. It's not for everybody but it is dominant. He does what he does extremely well and he's dominating some spectacular fighters.
Bjorn Rebney: There were a lot of different stars that needed to alight. We needed to establish the brand on Spike TV, do solid numbers on the first season. How do you get huge names on a pay-per-view and use that as a catalyst. When's Mayweather fighting, when are the other folks doing a pay-per-view. All of those stars came away for November 2nd. It's Rampage vs Tito and everything fit together the right way. It wasn't an impulse decision. A lot of fault went into it and it was the right time to do it.
Bjorn Rebney: I never try to get too far ahead or tease what could be. I'm more a fan of solidifying what is.
Tito Ortiz: Our careers speak for ourselves in hyping a fight. If we lose, the boss isn't gonna sit there talking smack on us, talking shit on us. It's just another fight. One guy loses, one guy wins. You put on a show. You take away a point or give one, I would have won. It's about embracing the fighters.
Rampage Jackson: I agree with what Tito is saying. It's no secret that we both felt like we've been treated wrongly in the past. It's a lot of pressure to win. When I was in Japan, it was all about putting on a show. Sakuraba was one of the biggest stars in Japan and he always put on a show. My first fight, walking out of the arena, some girl gave me an ear job. She was sucking on my ear. We fight to put on a show and we should be respected for that. I was ridiculed that my head was not in it. I could have backed out of the fight and ruined the card, all they had to do was say thank you. We have nightmares about our losses. We don't need the fans and promoters to add on when you've got a 50/50 chance to lose in the first place.
Born Rebney: It doesn't mean we can't do big events like this, put on spectacular fights that have the essence of matchmaking behind it. It's still based on that real sports format. We're still all about the tournaments. We're not gonna crown a champion with fights like this, but you'll see the sport evolve.
Bjorn Rebney: We're gonna have a lot of title fights on this show. It will be a long pay-per-view. Curran has a couple defenses in the book. Chandler looked unbelievable, Minakov looked unbelievable at heavyweights. There will be a lot of five's on that pay-per-view.
Bjorn Rebney: The good news is because of the Spike partnership, we've got what I've always dreamed about having, a backlog of challengers for our champions. You'll see a selection of title fights, possibly another big fight to open the pay-per-view. We're looking at two hour Spike TV pre-show. I'm excited to pick and choose where to go.
Bjorn Rebney: We'll have something created. We're working on shoulder programming that will support this. Tito's in Huntington Beach and Rampage is five minutes from our office. You'll see a lot of back and forth. The lead up to this incredible fight, the preparation et cetera, the co-main event and the third and fourth fight. There will be a lot of shoulder programming.
Bjorn Rebney: There's a well-thought out build. The three of us are lucky to have partners like Dixie and Kevin. It may in fact lead right up to that huge October event for TNA Impact.
Tito Ortiz: My last surgery was 12 weeks ago, ACL replacement on my right knee and the end of last year I had neck surgery. I recovered faster for this one than I did my last one. Now I'm the million dollar man.
Tito Ortiz: I got poked and I walked away and let my contract be done. Now let's reshuffle and do this again. I can only handle so much and be torn down so much. Now it's time for a chance to step forward. It's nice to be respected and to be treated the way I should be treated. I was the first UFC fighters in the history to compete for free. I do it because I love to compete. My three children, that's what the money's for. I'm one of the best fighters in the history of mixed martial arts. Rampage is one of the best fighters in the history of mixed martial arts. I'm gonna put on a good show and I'm hungry. I'm gonna fight like a lion, like the warrior I am. My last losses, they were close, split decisions, draws against former champions.
Tito Ortiz: It won't affect my management career at all. I've got good partners and Cris will continue to be champion. I've been running Punishment Athletics since the beginning of 1999 while I was fighting and you can't run a business on your own. I'm a workhorse. The last company I was with, I was the workhorse, on time for every meeting and I'll continue doing the exact same thing here that I did there.
Bjorn Rebney: Given what we saw against Rickels, i can't wait to get Mike back in there. He sure isn't getting paid by the hour. We'll see who he may be fighting in very short order.
Tito Ortiz: I don't have nothing to worry about anymore. I'm happy, very happy.
That's a wrap folks. Thanks for stopping by!